Saturday, September 25, 2010

The bad luck bus

Before I start talking about being unlucky, I should say that I was able to get all of my necessary permits to begin research in just 8 days. I DID walk into that government office on Wednesday and pick up the permit they said would be ready on Wednesday, but even more remarkable, on Thursday I walked out of a government building in less than 10 minutes with the final permit in hand. It was awesome. Now I can begin my research!

My field assistants met me in the city, and we left this morning for Nyota with 5 heavy bags/trunks and 5 rolls of fabric. At the nearest large town, we have to switch to a bus that runs only once per day. It leaves Nyota in the morning, and returns in the evening... except when it doesn't.

When I was leaving Nyota in April, my field assistants came to my house before dawn to help me haul everything out to the road to wait for the bus. We waited. Then someone came by and told us the bus never made it back from town the previous evening because the roads were too bad. We were waiting for a bus that wasn't going to come. I needed to get to town in time to catch a bus to the city, for which I had already purchased a ticket. I had too much stuff to just get on a motorbike, so the only thing we could do was wait for a lift from a passing vehicle. It's very common for people to do that here.

One of my field assistants, T, was using my phone to call the city bus station to get the number for the town bus station to tell them I'm running late but I'm on my way when a lift showed up. It was the car from the research station, and inside was the neighbor lady, the guy who tutored me in Ukenzagapese, and the guy I rented my house from. They threw all of my bags and trunks on the rack on top of the car, not bothering to tie them down (it had a 'lip' on it so things just didn't slide off but they did slide around). There was room for me but not my field assistants, so they said they'd find other lifts and meet me at the bus stand. 

Not far down the road, T passed the car on the back of a motorbike. Not long after that, my other field assistant, B, passed me in the back of a pickup truck. I'd left first but now they were both ahead of me. Around that time I realized that I didn't even have my phone to call them because T had it when I got in the car! The road was terrible and we passed several stuck lorries and I'm amazed that all of my luggage stayed on top of the car (I think because it was heavy). It takes at least an hour to get from Nyota to town by car, so I was resigned to missing my bus and taking a later one. When the car arrived at the bus station, I was thanking the driver and getting out of the car when T and B ran up and told me to get back in! They said my bus had just passed a few minutes ago, and the bus company called the driver and they would wait just down the road for us. All of the other car passengers hopped out, T and B hopped in, and the driver rushed us down the road to catch the bus. 

We drove. We passed 1 small town. Then two. Then three. Then we realized the bus hadn't waited long enough and we had to turn back. We we back the bus station, unloaded my things, and switched my ticket from one bus company to another, just as the other bus pulled up and we hurriedly loaded my things on and I said a rushed goodbye to T and B. It was a crazy, hectic, stressful morning that ended up ok (and reinforced to me how many friends I've made in Nyota), but it all started because the bus didn't come back the night before.

Today we arrived in town at the usual time, but the once-a-day bus to Nyota was completely sold out. They had no seats and no luggage space available. Strike two for this annoying bus. It even left five minutes early this afternoon, which is unheard of. We had waaaaay too much stuff to get on a motorbike, and normal taxis usually can't make it on the rough roads, so we decided to wait at the start of the road to Nyota for a lift. I sat with the luggage and chatted with a friendly 15 year old boy from near Nyota who wants to go to the US when he finishes secondary school. 

After about 2 hours of waiting around, someone with a land rover type vehicle offered a lift to everyone else who was waiting around to go to Nyota (for pay). Everyone would have fit just fine, except this crazy white lady (that's me) had apparently brought all of her material possessions to Ukenzagpia and needed them in the car. There was no roof rack, so they all had to go inside. I sat up front between the driver and an older man. Squished in with my bags were at least 5 adults and 3 or 4 children, probably more, including only one of my field assistants (who sounded like he might have been under one of the bags). I felt really bad for all of them. One guy spent the whole ride half-standing hunched over the driver. That couldn't possibly be comfortable. My lap was covered in bags of bread and my feet were slowly cooking from the heat of the engine. It was hot, bumpy, and uncomfortable (not just physically) but we made it.

I was greeted by the neighbor guy and one of the guards, and the two other grad students I'm sharing the house with this time, and they all helped me carry things to the house. I'm staying in the same bedroom as last time. It's great to be back in Nyota. I just hate that bus.


Moa said...

I hope that their research takes place within what you expect. For even if it does not believe so, you're actually putting a brick in the construction of a new world. Congratulations!

Transient Theorist said...

Glad to hear you've made it ok. Hope my email + those files arrived the other day, and sorry if I missed you Friday.

Angie said...

Glad to hear that you made it to the field site! Too bad about the long crowded ride :(